Tuesday 10 September 2013

Week 37 Nutrition Habit: Eat Turkey Year Round

Every year around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, you will hear people jokingly warn others, "don't eat too much turkey!" Yah right, as if turkey is the cause of the obesity epidemic. In reality, turkey is one of the best and healthiest items in the typical holiday dinner. However for most people, they only eat this fantastic meat twice a year - Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is time for that to change. Therefore, in week 37 of our 52 Weeks to Better Nutrition and a New You series, it is time to make turkey a regular menu item.

The benefits of turkey
When it comes to meat, turkey meat is one of the healthiest options around. Here a few of the fantastic health benefits of turkey:
  • High quality, complete protein (which is important for health, performance and body composition)
  • Inexpensive
  • Versatile
  • Turkey breast is extremely low in saturated fat (o.2g per 3 oz. serving) (note: it is good to not eat too much saturated fat, but we do not have to fear it like we thought we did back in the 80's)
  • High in niacin which can help lower your risk of heart attacks
  • High in zinc which helps to strengthen you immune system
  • High in selenium which is a powerful antioxidant
  • High in vitamins B6 & B12
  • Tastes great!
Reference: SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life

The value of food rotation
For most of us eating for high performance nutrition, our meat options tend to be limited almost exclusively to chicken and beef. One of the things you want to do it to expand your food options and rotate in different foods that deliver similar amounts of calories, proteins, fats and carbs. This has two great advantages. The first is that it provides a broader spectrum of nutrients as different foods will be higher in different nutrients. The second is that it can reduce your risk of developing food intolerances as eating same foods day in and day out can cause you to build of an intolerance to them. This is very problematic as you are likely eating these foods because of the health, body composition and performance benefits you get from them. By rotating these foods you can reduce your risk of having to stop eating foods you enjoy and need to help you get to your training goals.

Does turkey make you sleepy?
Now some high performance-minded folks may be concerned about turkey making them sleepy. After all, is it not that amino acid tryprophan that is found in turkey that makes you sleepy? For most people, this seems to make sense as they routinely crash on the couch for a nap after Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner (the two times of the year they eat turkey). The main reason you want to fall asleep after a big holiday dinner is not the turkey. Eating in general tends to switch on our parasympathetic nervous system. This system calms us and stimulates growth and repair in the body. Eating extra large portions makes you sleepier than small ones. Carbohydrates also make you sleepy and these are often eaten in huge abundance at most holiday feasts (rolls, potatoes, pie, etc.). Few things will help you drift off into dream land faster than a high carbohydrate meal.

My favorite non-turkey dinner turkey recipe
Now for most of us, the idea of spending all day in the kitchen preparing a traditional turkey dinner is neither appealing or practical. To make turkey a more regular part of your diet, you need a different approach. One simple, practical approach that I use is buying ground turkey. Ground turkey can simply be substituted in place of beef in your favorite ground beef dishes. We usually get ground turkey that is a combination of light and dark meat. Here is our family's favorite ground turkey dish: 

1 pound ground turkey
1-2 cups chopped broccoli
1-2 cups chopped zucchini 
1/2-1 medium-sized onion
1-3 cloves of garlic
Oil (ideally choose coconut oil or macademian nut oil. We often use olive oil on a low temperature).

Optional ingredients
To add extra good carbs to this meal, try the following:

1-2 cans of mixed beans (mix in with the rest of the ingredients near the end of the cooking
Baked yams
Whole grain pasta (if you need and tolerate grains well, ideally choose gluten free)

Place the raw turkey meat in the pan with some oil
Let the turkey cook and wash and chop the veggies while you are waiting 
Stir and crumple regularly 
Once the meat is almost completely cooked and crumpled, add the veggies
Stir regularly until veggies are soft, but not mushy and still have vibrant color
Add the beans - if desired

This week's practical application habit:
This week, go to the store and buy some turkey. Try to above recipe or create your own. Try to have turkey at least once a week. 

Below are the links to the other weekly habits in this series:


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